December 2013

Claire and Adam's Violin Lessons, Blog 2b (Adam) 'Squeezing the Sponge'

December 29, 2013 09:01

EDITOR'S NOTE: Violin teacher Adam DeGraff and adult violin student Claire Silvester are sharing their thoughts from their Skype lessons together in this series of blogs. Here are links to other blogs in the series: Blog 1: Claire's introduction: Approaching New Year - reflecting and resolutions. and Blog 2: Claire's question: Squeezing the Sponge

This is a response to Blog 2: Claire's question: Squeezing the Sponge

True that Claire. I love a modern approach to Bach. I loved those classes Sergio Luca taught at Rice University about Baroque Performance Practice, but it isn't to my taste. I like the way Milstein and Heifetz and Hahn play Bach, thus, that's the way I teach it! :-)

Speed, Pressure, and Point of Contact mean nothing if you don't use them to serve the music, and in all cases, the music is served better if you are where you want to be in your bow. In measures 8 and 9 in the Giga from Bach's Partita #2, 4 sequences that crescendo (3 slurs down, three separate up, down, up, start over) can be well planned if each subsequent sequence starts, say, one inch lower on the bow, ending up at the very frog for the big arrival on the open G.

Squeezing water out of the sponge, or squeezing quality sound out of three slurred down-bow notes while using a minimum amount of bow feels the same to me. Releasing the sponge and letting it resume its open, air filled shape, feels like freedom to me, allowing me to recapture some of that bow I just spent and now I can zig-zag my way down to an inch lower than where started the previous sequence. (Zig-Zag = slightly lighter/faster up bow, heavier/slower up bow, lighter/faster up bow, and surprise, you are where you want to be!)

[Claire, you said "Even though I comprehend the description, for me, this is all abstract. I cannot execute the bowing, I do not know how it feels. I can squeeze an actual sponge for a concrete sensory starting point though."]

Very True! Which is why you aren't expected to get it right away. Like that old joke... it only took her 10 years to become an overnight success. It just takes mileage. If you feel it "right" one time out of 1000, then you are on the right track. Find it 1 in 100, then 1 in 10, then 1 in 2 and you are on your way! If you don't find it 1 in 1000, then leave it alone and, with your teacher, approach it from a different direction some other time. There's plenty to work on for now. (for ALL of us!)

So the technique at hand here? Bach Partita #2, Giga, measures 8 and 9, starting on beat 3. Goal? To craft each 6 note sequence beautifully while making an overall crescendo to the G at beat 3 measure 9. Be at the frog for the G.

Hope that was helpful.

3 replies

Claire and Adam's Violin Lessons, Blog 1b (Adam)

December 28, 2013 15:06

EDITOR'S NOTE: Violin teacher Adam DeGraff and adult violin student Claire Silvester are sharing their thoughts from their Skype lessons together in this series of blogs. Here are links to other blogs in the series: Blog 1: Claire's introduction: Approaching New Year - reflecting and resolutions. and Blog 2: Claire's question: Squeezing the Sponge

Yes, that IS that plan :-) First off, anybody reading these back-and-forth blog posts, will notice that Claire is far more eloquent than I. Expect my two cents to come more in the form of a reply and notes of clarification. My plan is to follow Claire's lead and really to just give you my side of the story ;-)

So, to follow suite, a quick run down on me and my background. I am a full time performer (classical, rock, improv) a teacher (small local studio, Skype studio, and workshops while I am on tour) and a farmer (small organic farm in Lewisburg, WV.) I am from Chicago where I benefited from some seriously awesome early teaching. (Gerardo Ribeiro, Joe Golan, and Ruben Gonzalez to name a few.) I went to Northwestern University (class of 96... do the math) and then to Rice for grad work. I won a job as principal second violin in the Richmond Symphony (Virginia) while still at Rice. I soloed often with the orchestra and was promoted to Concertmaster. Simultaneously, I was being encouraged by a number of larger orchestras and conductors to come audition/lead, but after 5 seasons of orchestral playing and a number of eye opening experiences, I decided that being an orchestral musician wasn't for me.

Skip ahead 10+ years... now I do a lot of solo work, tour a lot with my band(s) THE WEIGHT, The Dueling Fiddlers, and Pianafiddle, and have found a new love, SKYPE TEACHING. Why do I so love teaching via Skype? Because I literally get the best students in the world. Not knocking my local students, but when a student has to to e-track down a teacher and has the whole world to choose from, the teacher is getting a very cool, very determined student. A bit different than mom or dad dropping the student off every week. Oh, also, I can tour as much as I want and never miss teaching a lesson as long as my hotel, concert hall, or gritty music club has high speed internet.

Teaching via Skype is different though. You are forced to put things into words that perhaps you never had to before. You have to use analogies like never before. You have to pace your talking, instructions, and demonstrations differently. It forces you to become a more thoughtful teacher, which, has been very good for me... and perhaps my students as well. In any case, I just LOVE IT! The only down side besides not being able to physically adjust a students hands/fingers/neck etc..... you don't get to high-five or hug a student when they finally hit that home run.

Moving forward... I will say that I do not subscribe to any one particular "method" of teaching. I adapt my teaching 100% to the student I am working with. I often times hear myself say one thing to one student and a contradictory thing to another because helping a student become their own best teacher is really what it is all about. The teacher spends 1 hour with the student. The student spends 20 with themselves. So let's not forget who is THE most important teacher.

Finally, I chose to do this project with Claire because she is the most insightful student I have ever worked with. I encouraged her to do this because I think that anybody who wants to get better at playing the violin will learn a ton from her process. She is a kind woman. She is hard working. She is not afraid to try new things. And she is determined to unlock her own best teacher inside of her. I hope you all will encourage her to share her process.

Happy New Year to you all!

~Adam DeGraff

1 reply

More entries: November 2013

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Violinist.com Business Directory
Violinist.com Business Directory

Johansen International Competition

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases

Fiddlerman.com

Fiddlershop

Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Violin-Strings.com

Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin

Warchal

Barenreiter

Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine

Subscribe